TWIN FALLS — With only three days to go before the total solar eclipse, motorists are already pouring into Idaho to stake out their campsites, fill their hotel rooms and prepare for the show.
And it’s probably only going to get busier.
Leading up to the Monday’s event, AAA Idaho projects gas prices will continue to increase and 6,000 motorists in Oregon and Idaho will call for service each day. And while the Idaho Transportation Department has put restrictions in place to prevent clogging up roadways Monday, construction activity will cause inevitable delays.
Planning on driving this weekend? Before you panic, think ahead. Here are a few tips for motorists as they prepare to hit the roads:
Gas up sooner rather than later
AAA encourages Idahoans to keep a full gas tank in the coming days to avoid the potential for even higher prices and longer lines at the pump.
“Since Aug. 1, Idaho’s average gas prices has gone up 15 cents, while the national average has gone up only 2 cents,” AAA Idaho spokesman Matthew Conde said.
As of Thursday, the average price for a gallon of regular gas in Twin Falls was $2.66, up 7 cents from a week ago and 14 cents from a month ago.
Gas price fluctuations nationwide over the past few days could be a result of drivers creating more demand in states along the path of totality, and taking demand from states that aren’t. There are concerns that sudden panic from motorists could create a fuel shortage such as the one that occurred in central Oregon this week.
“I still think it’s the wisest decision to fuel up now and understand the issues on the back-end,” he said.
Fuel and grocery deliveries the day of and after the eclipse could also be delayed.
Take your time. Expect delays.
Give yourself plenty of time to get where you’re traveling — especially if you’re thinking of chasing the eclipse east or west due to cloud or smoke cover.
“You need to make a calculated decision on what you think you could really do,” Conde said. “Emotion and driving seldom go well together.”
To limit congestion and maximize mobility, Idaho Transportation Department has implemented travel restrictions for oversized loads on Monday, spokesman Nathan Jerke said.
“We do a similar kind of restriction on holidays,” he said.
From 4 p.m. Sunday to dawn Tuesday, loads bigger than 10 feet wide, 100 feet long or 14 feet, 6 inches high may not travel on Idaho interstate and state highways.
“Those oversized loads can sometimes take two lanes,” Jerke said.
Trucking companies have been advised of the potential for late delivery times.
The department had hoped to delay construction activities on Idaho highways and interstates Monday, but staff discovered a change order would come at too great a cost, Jerke said.
The good news: Maintenance workers will stand down for one week, and work was expected to finish Thursday on the new Big Wood River Bridge south of Ketchum.
The bad news: Stanton Crossing on U.S. 20 in Blaine County is still reduced to one lane. And Interstate 84 will still have miles of road construction activity reducing traffic to a single lane from Wendell to Jerome, mile posts 157 to 166; and from Idaho 50 to the Minidoka County line, mile posts 182 to 201.
Help emergency responders.
If you’re still on the road and it’s time for totality, it might be tempting to pull over into emergency travel lanes.
“If everybody thinks that way, we’re going to be preventing emergency vehicles from doing their job,” Conde said.
In other words, don’t do it. Legally park in a safe area, and while driving, watch for other eclipse viewers that may unexpectedly block traffic. Don’t attempt to stand in the middle of the road or in emergency travel lanes.
Roadside assistance crews will be stretched thin, so make sure to check your fluid levels and tire pressure before you leave. Most roadside assistance calls are for batteries, lockouts and flat tires.
“AAA and other service providers will prioritize roadside assistance based on safety concerns, traffic flow and other factors in coordination with highway officials and law enforcement,” Conde said.
Remember, the farther you are from civilization, the farther you are from help. Tow trucks may not be able to access some rural roads.
In preparation for the increased population, Twin Falls Police Department has ordered all on-duty sworn employees to be in uniform on Monday, said Lt. Terry Thueson. This includes detectives, school resource officers and administrative staff who might otherwise not be in uniform. Several off-duty officers will also be on standby, he said.
Stock up on supplies.
Even if you’re staying fairly close to home, it’s a good idea to ensure people and pets have plenty of food and water with them. If you plan on driving, an emergency kit should contain a flashlight, batteries, an emergency beacon or reflector, a cellphone charger and basic first aid supplies.